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EXUBKIS UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA^) 



JOHN HENRY NASH LIBRARY 



SAN FRANCISCO 

PRESENTED TO THE 

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA 

ROBERT GORDON SPROUL.PRESIDENT. 



MR.ANDMRS.MILTON S.RAV 

CECILY, VIRGINIA AND ROSALYN RAY 

AND THE 

RAY OIL BURNER COMPANY 









. , 



BY LEON H. VINCENT 



THE BIBLIOTAPH AND OTHER 
PEOPLE 121110, $1.50 

BRIEF STUDIES IN FRENCH SOCI- 
ETY AND LETTERS IN THE XVII. 
CENTURY 

I. HOTEL DE RAMBOUILLET AND 

THE PRE'CIEUSES i6mo, $1.00 

II. THE FRENCH ACA- ^ 
DEMY 

III. CORNEILLE 

IV. MOLIERE 



-> ;/ 

( preparation 



HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN & COMPANY 
BOSTON AND NEW YORK 



By LEON H. VINCENT 



CAMBRIDGE 
tz/ Tlie Riverside Prefs, 




Copyright, igoo, by Leon H. Vincent 
All rights reserved 



70 my friend 
LINDSAY SWIFT 



CONTENTS 



Hotel de Rambouillet, its Mistress and 

its Guests ........ 7 



Z)' Urfe^ Malherbe, and Balzac . , 37 

~*-IIH- 
Voiture and Montausier .... 55 



Mademoiselle de Scud'ery and her 'Sat- 

urdays ' ..... , 71 



The Predeuses ....... 87 

-i-VH- 

Conclusion ........ m 

Bibliographical Note ...... 117 



H6TEL 

DE 

RAMBOUILLET 

AND THE 

PRCIEUSES 



1 



N the Musee de Cluny in Paris 
are to be seen two blocks of granite. 
They are ' foundation-stones ' of the 
famous Hotel de Rambouillet. One 
bears an inscription to the effect that 
the mansion of which they were once 
a part was built by the 'high and 



HOTEL DE RAMBOUILLET 

powerful lord ' Maitre Charles d'An- 
gennes, Marquis de Rambouillet and 
Pisany. Then follows a list of his 
other titles and offices. He was Vi- 
dame of Mans, Baron of Chaudulor 
and of Tallemant, a councillor in the 
king's council of state, and master of 
his majesty's wardrobe. The date on 
the stone is June 26, 1618. 

At the time of the building of this 
'hotel' the Marquis de Rambouillet 
was forty-one; the Marquise was eleven 
years his junior. They had already 
been married eighteen years. There- 
fore when Catherine de Vivonne be- 
came a bride she was but twelve years 
of age, a child wife indeed. The wed- 
ding took place in 1600. Wedding 
customs of the year 1600 differed 
radically, no doubt, from those of the 



AND THE PRCIEUSES 

year 1900. But in one respect wed- 
dings are much the same : there are 
always the customary congratulations, 
the fervent prophecies of a brilliant 
marital career, and the private asides 
of cynical questioning and speculation. 
No one, so far as we know, had the 
gift of prophecy to the extent of being 
able to declare on Catherine de Vi- 
vonne's wedding-day that this young 
girl, with her 'womanly seriousness, 
her proud spirit, and her rare genius,' 
was to reorganize society in behalf of 
virtue and culture, and that without 
putting pen to paper she was to make 
her name an inalienable part of the 
history of French literature. 

The story has been told many times 
and by able men. All students know 
the books of Roederer, Walckenaer, 



HOTEL DE RAMEOUILLET 

Demogeot, Cousin, and Livet. I 
should like by the help of these and 
other books to 'resume' the chief 
facts of the history of those splendid 
decades when Hotel de Rambouillet 
was in its full glory ; when poetry was 
thought to be worth while ; when con- 
versation was an art, and people be- 
lieved that it made a difference whether 
one talked well or ill ; when the As- 
tree of Honore d'Urfe was the most 
fashionable novel in the whole world; 
when Corneille read his plays before 
they were played ; when Bossuet was 
a boy orator, and improvised a sermon 
at midnight before the assembled 
guests, whereof Voiture was led to 
remark and few jests hold their own 
as this has done for two hundred and 
sixty-five years that 6 he had never 



PRECIEUSES 



heard any one preach so early or so 
late. 5 

It will be interesting to note how 
after more than forty years of social 
supremacy Hotel de Rambouillet de- 
clined and its circle was scattered. 
New societies arose, not to take its 
place, but to make each a place for 
itself. The old order changed. What 
was simple elegance and virtue at 
Hotel de Rambouillet became osten- 
tation and prudery in the new salons. 
Finally the sect of the Precieuses came 
into existence, and by their affectations 
made polite society ashamed of being 
polite. Then came the satirists, and 
chief among them Moliere, with his 
sparkling comedy the Precieuses ridi- 
cules. This play was not an attack 
upon Hotel de Rambouillet, as we too 



HOTEL DE RAMBOUILLET 

often assume ; it was an attack upon 
the bad imitations of a society so gen- 
uine in its character and so noble in 
its influence that Moliere himself must 
have held it in highest esteem. 



A HE Marquise de Rambouillet 



was that unusual something, a born 
social leader. There are not many. 
Very few so-called social leaders re- 
ally lead they bribe their followers 
and do not confess it even to them- 
selves. 6 We dare not trust our wit to 
make our home pleasant to our friend, 
so we serve ice-creams,' remarked a 
philosopher. Of many striking facts 
concerning Hotel de Rambouillet and 
its guests this is perhaps the most not- 



HOTEL DE RAMBOUILLET 

able, it was a place where people were 
not afraid to trust their wit. Two and 
a half centuries have passed, and many 
critical and historical facts have been 
brought to light touching civilization 
in the seventeenth century, but the 
idea which dominates all other ideas 
is that Hotel de Rambouillet stood 
for the art of conversation. It was a 
place where men and women met for 
the interchange of ideas, and the only 
place where excellence in talk con- 
ferred social distinction. 

We shall always wonder at the 
gifts of a woman who could create 
and hold together such a society. Her 
success must needs appear almost 
miraculous to the good people of our 
day, most of whom would do any- 
thing rather than face the terrors of 



PR&CIEUSES 



conversation with nothing to eat. 
What shrewd woman at this end of 
the century would risk a potential 
social success upon anything so frail 
and intangible as mere talk ? The 
result of such timidity is that good 
talk is getting rarer every day. 

Historians credit the Marquise de 
Rambouillet with having founded the 
first salon known in France. It is 
unlikely, however, that when she es- 
tablished herself in her new home 
Catherine de Vivonne saw the end 
from the beginning. And it is even 
more unlikely that she had a definite 
conception of what had never before 
existed. Such an assemblage as 
gathered about her was a growth. She 
had the gift of social organization. 
This gift includes many elements, but 
H- 9 -H- 



HOTEL DE RAMEOUILLET 

among them obviously the power to 
attract and the power to hold. 

She was an attractive woman. She 
was well-born, talented, beautiful, and 
rich. And she was a good woman. 
This is usually considered plain praise. 
It suggests homely qualities and dull 
domesticities. Nevertheless it must 
stand. This great ' society leader ' 
was austerely virtuous. Moreover 
her downright unaffected goodness 
influenced everybody about her. 
Without perhaps intending it, she did 
a most extraordinary thing. In a cor- 
rupt age she made virtue fashionable. 
To praise her for this is not to praise 
superficially ; we must remember how 
many people are unwilling to accept 
virtue on less advantageous terms. It 
is something to have got such people 



AND THE PR&CIEUSES 

to realize that it may be good form to 
keep the Ten Commandments. 

The Marquise de Rambouillet was 
the daughter of Jean de Vivonne, 
Marquis de Pisani, who had been 
French ambassador at the court of 
Rome. There was Italian blood in 
her veins. Her maternal grandmother 
was Clarice Strozzi, a kinswoman of 
Catharine de Medicis. The Marquise 
was therefore related to Marie de Me- 
dicis, wife of Henry IV. She had 
become the mother of seven children 
before she was twenty-six. Of her 
five daughters the most famous was 
Julie-Lucine, afterwards Duchesse de 
Montausier. One of the sons died at 
the age of seven. The other, who 
inherited his grandfather's title of 
Marquis de Pisani, has been described 
-H- ii - 



HOTEL DE RAMBOUILLET 

as clever, and a sworn enemy of pro- 
fessional beaux esprits. 

In the first years of her wedded life 
Catherine de Vivonne took such place 
at court as the high rank of her own 
and her husband's family entitled her 
to. Her physical and moral dainti- 
ness revolted from the rude manners 
and licentious intrigue which char- 
acterized court life under Henry IV. 
Little by little she began to withdraw. 
As an excuse for this she could plead 
the responsibilities of a rapidly increas- 
ing family. The fact that she no 
longer went into the great world did 
not result in making her socially iso- 
lated. So much of the great world 
as was really worth knowing began to 
come to her. Hotel de Rambouillet 
enjoyed from the first such distinction 

-H I2+- 



AND THE PRfiCIEUSES 

as will be necessarily conferred upon 
a house when its mistress has youth, 
beauty, wealth, and rank. It seems 
also to have been a home in our 
modern sense of the word. The sum 
total of domestic happiness was great. 
This alone would serve to differen- 
tiate its manners from those of the 
dissolute court. Virtue was hered- 
itary in the houses of d'Angennes and 
Vivonne. ' Life at court and life at 
Hotel de Rambouillet were antipa- 
thetic,' says Roederer. And he also 
says that people who frequented both 
places seemed to change their char- 
acter when they passed from the one 
to the other. 

The irreproachable purity of the 
Marquise de Rambouillet's life has 
been a most grateful theme to critics 



HOTEL DE RAMBOUILLET 

and historians. They reflect with 
satisfaction that the distinguished ar- 
tists in tattle and scandal who flour- 
ished in the seventeenth century have 
spared her good name. In all the 
records of that interesting past there 
is not one anecdote, or rumor, or hint, 
which can be construed to her dis- 
credit. At the present time all this 
would be taken for granted; but in 
1630, if one said that a woman was 
beautiful, it was regarded as a striking 
and unusual corollary if one were able 
to add that she was good. 

It has moreover been accounted 
among the conspicuous merits of this 
great lady that she never wrote a book 
or kept a journal. She was an excel- 
lent talker without being either epi- 
grammatic or witty. She spoke per- 
-H- 144- 



AND THE PRCIEUSES 

fectly Italian, French, and Spanish, 
and studied Latin in order to be able 
to read Vergil in the original. Her 
vivacity was not the sort for the pos- 
session of which Matthew Arnold so 
often apologized. The Marquise was 
'good to everybody.' Her amuse- 
ments were those of the women of 
her time; and on the whole neither 
more nor less frivolous than the amuse- 
ments of to-day. She loved beautiful 
things, said Tallemant de Reaux, who 
himself loved many things that were 
not beautiful. 

Hotel de Rambouillet stood in Rue 
Saint-Thomas-du-Louvre. At the 
present time the site is occupied by 
the Grand Magazin du Louvre. One 
buys dry-goods and millinery where 
once were welcomed such guests as 



HOTEL DE RAMB QUILLET 

Malherbe, Corneille, Chapelain, Voi- 
ture, La Rochefoucauld, and Madame 
de Sevigne. This is a desolation 
worse than that of Balclutha. 

The original mansion was the pro- 
perty of Catherine de Vivonne's fa- 
ther, and was known as Hotel de 
Pisani. In 1600 it received the name 
by which it afterward became famous. 
Many changes were made in its con- 
struction from time to time. Once 
indeed it was almost leveled to the 
ground, so radical were the projected 
improvements. The Marquise was 
her own architect, and dared to change 
the position of the staircase, which up 
to her time had held undisputed sway 
over the best part of a house. She 
banished it to a corner and built it in 
an easily ascending curve, a thing 
-i- 16*- 



AND THE PRCIEUSSS 

no one seems to have thought of doing 
before, at least in mansions of that 
sort. The Marquise had that wisdom 
which is denied to professional archi- 
tects and given only to women who 
know what they want. 

She also introduced the custom of 
having instead of one vast drawing- 
room, as dreary as it was magnificent, 
a series of rooms upon the same floor. 
The guest made his way to the pre- 
sence of the great lady herself by a 
succession of ante-chambers, chambers, 
and cabinets. She seems to have been 
the first to realize that a room could 
be decorated in any other color than 
tan or red. Her particular salon was 
tapestried in blue velvet. This was 
an innovation, and people commented 
upon it. The ' blue room ' was some- 



HOTEL DE RAMEOUILLET 

thing to see. It soon became the 
focus of that type of refinement and 
lettered elegance which the Marquise 
and her friends represented, a refine- 
ment to be rigidly distinguished from 
the labored and quintessential preci- 
osity of forty years afterward. 

From the first this house was de- 
mocratic. It was impossible that 
blood should not count for something 
with a woman 4 who was both Strozzi 
and Savelli,' nevertheless other gifts 
besides those of long descent were 
welcomed at Hotel de Rambouillet. 
One saw a great variety of people, 
noblemen, ladies of high degree, 
priests, soldiers, courtiers, poets, and 
novelists, and the occasional adven- 
turer without whom society could not 
exist. A high premium was placed 



AND THE PR&CIEUSES 

on wit and learning, though it was 
hoped that wit and learning would be 
accompanied by good manners. Men 
of letters found that here the atmos- 
phere had a caressing quality which 
they had never before experienced. 
They were soothed and comforted 
thereby. Moreover their reception 
was so genuinely cordial that it forti- 
fied their self-respect. When we see 
the haughty magnificence of bearing 
with which some of our modern young 
novelists and poets conduct them- 
selves, even to the extent of offering 
us two fingers to shake, it is difficult 
to realize that there could have been 
a time when literary powers did not 
imply a large measure of social dis- 
tinction. But so it was. Even Vol- 
taire complained that in his day pro- 
-i- 19 *- 



HOTEL DE RAMEOUILLET 

fessional authors were snubbed. Such 
a complaint would have been better 
justified in the first third of the sev- 
enteenth century. The Marquise de 
Rambouillet did more perhaps than 
any other one woman to secure for 
authors the privilege of being received 
into the ' best society ' on equal terms 
with the aristocracy. This, to be sure, 
is not the chief end of literature, but 
it may be accounted one of the rights 
of authors considered merely as human 
beings. The Marquise helped them 
to establish this right. 

It is a question whether there was 
to be found in France a hostess so 
tolerant as was she with respect to the 
humors and caprices of literary men. 
She may even have accentuated their 
peculiarities. We have heard of 

-H 2O-H- 



AND THE PRtiCIEUSES 

spoiled children, and some of us, no 
doubt, have had the pleasure of being 
such. The world is full of spoiled 
children. The world is also full of 
spoiled authors, and the Marquise 
de Rambouillet was the woman who 
did a great deal to spoil them. This 
was partly from kindness of heart, 
and partly from a genuine respect for 
letters. Up to her time poets and 
authors generally held an equivocal 
position in society. That complete 
and godlike independence which men 
like Victor Hugo and Alfred Tenny- 
son enjoyed was not possible in the 
first half of the seventeenth century. 
Most of the poets were attached to 
one or other of the great houses. 
They were ' domestics, 5 though not in 
the restricted sense in which we now 

-H- 21 4- 



HOTEL DE RAMBOUILLET 

use that word. A man might have a 
poet in his house as he might have 
any highly decorative piece of furni- 
ture. He would respect both the 
furniture and the poet for their in- 
trinsic worth, but his pride would be 
rooted in the fact that he was the pro- 
prietor of both. Roederer gives a 
list of sixteen poets, all of whom were 
attached to some royal or noble house. 
The list includes Clement Marot, 
Ronsard, Malherbe, Racan, Theophile, 
Voiture, Sarrazin, and Benserade. 
Their respective positions were honor- 
able, no doubt, 'but they were de- 
pendent.' At Hotel de Rambouillet 
the poets found themselves released 
from all personal obligations. The 
poet was no longer a part of the 
household equipment of a rich and 

-f- 22 - 



AND THE PR&CIEUSES 

powerful lord ; he was a man among 
men. He was able to show his pre- 
ferences, and to decide by just what 
nobleman he would consent to be 
patronized. Better than this he was 
at liberty to say whether he would 
consent to be patronized at all, or 
would elect to live independently. 
Many poets preferred patronage ; it 
was comfortable and they were used 
to it. None the less it is a great 
thing when men acquire the privilege 
of being men. For this if for no 
other reason the various Societies of 
Authors should build a monument to 
the Marquise de Rambouillet. 

To mention all the guests distin- 
guished for birth, genius, and learning 
who at one time or another were 
welcomed at Hotel de Rambouillet 



HOTEL DE RAMBOUILLET 

would be to compile a society ' blue- 
book ' and a dictionary of men of 
letters. The names are suggestive to 
the student, though uninteresting to 
the general reader. 

Hotel de Rambouillet was rebuilt 
in 1618. Reunions had been held, 
however, at an earlier date. For ex- 
ample, Armand Duplessis, afterward 
Cardinal Due de Richelieu, was pre- 
sented to Madame de Rambouillet's 
circle in 1615. He was then but 
twenty years of age. Cospeau was 
his social sponsor. 

There are three well-defined periods 
in the life of this salon. The first is 
the period of formation ; it includes 
the years between 1620 and 1630. In 
1620 the Marquise was thirty-two 
years old and approaching the ' perfect 
-t- 24-1- 



AND THE PR&CIEUSES 

age ' of thirty-five. I speak of this 
because I have heard a contemporary 
say that thirty-five is an age which 
' needs to be celebrated as the most 
charming which a matron reaches and 
remains at. When a man has the priv- 
ilege of talking with a woman of thirty- 
five he may well abandon the society 
of your raw, incoherent Juliets to the 
pink-and-white Romeos who like it.' 

Conspicuous among the guests of 
the first period were the Due de Guise, 
the Due de la Tremouille, Marechal 
de Souvre, the Marquis de Vigean, 
Arnauld d'Andilly, and Chaudebonne, 
who had the honor of starting Voiture 
upon his career. Notable among the 
men of letters were the old poet Mal- 
herbe, his disciple the Marquis de 
Racan, and Vaugelas, who was even 



HOTEL DE RAMBOUILLET 

then making those minute studies of 
current speech which twenty-seven 
years later were to be given to the 
world in his famous Remarks on the 
French Language. Here, too, were 
to be seen Gombauld, Balzac, Chape- 
lain, and Voiture. These last four 
were young men, all under thirty 
when this period begins, while Voiture 
was only twenty-two. Among elect 
and beautiful women were Charlotte 
de Montmorency, Princesse de Conde, 
the Duchesse de la Tremouille, and 
the young Marquise de Sable. Julie 
d'Angennes, the loved daughter of the 
house, was about eighteen, her friend 
Madelaine de Scudery of the same 
age. Youth, with all that youth im- 
plies, was very apparent at Hotel de 
Rambouillet during this period. 
-H- 26 -t- 



AND THE PRMCIEUSMS 

The second period, the period of 
greatest splendor, begins in 1630 and 
closes about 1638. ' The blue room 
became a veritable sanctuary of taste, 
a school where the seventeenth century 
obtained its education. 5 Among the 
new recruits were the Due d'Enghien, 
the Due de Montausier, Saint-Evre- 
mond, La Rochefoucauld, Patru the 
great forensic orator, and Menage the 
scholar, celebrated then for his learn- 
ing, and now because he was the 
instructor of Madame de Sevigne. 
Other names, suggestive of various 
gifts and ambitions, are Mairet, Ro- 
trou, Conrart, Sarrazin, Godeau, Costar, 
Benserade, Georges de Scudery, and 
Scarron. Bossuet's first appearance 
in this circle was in 1643. The Abbe 
Cotin began to come about this time, 



HOTEL DE RAMEOUILLET 

unconscious that his claim to immor- 
tality would need to be based on the 
facts that he was satirized by Boileau 
and caricatured by Moliere. In 
marked contrast with him one might 
mention Pierre Corneille, to whose 
interest Hotel de Rambouillet was 
sufficiently devoted, for it took his 
part against the terrible Richelieu in 
that sensational quarrel of the Cid. 

There were many brilliant women 
both from the aristocracy and the 
middle class. Mademoiselle de Bour- 
bon-Conde, afterwards Duchesse de 
Longueville; also Mademoiselle de 
Coligny, the future Comtesse de la 
Suze, she who became a Catholic be- 
cause her husband was a Protestant, 
and who (in the language of Queen 
Christina) separated from him in order 



AND THE PRfiCIEUSES 

not to see him either in this world or 
the next. One should also mention 
Anne de Rohan, Princesse de Gue- 
mene, and the Comtesse de Maure. 
Perhaps the most striking figure was 
Angelique Paulet. They called her 
6 the beautiful lioness ' because of her 
magnificent mane of golden hair and 
the haughtiness of her bearing. To 
her was first applied a phrase which 
afterward became famous; it was 
said that she had ' cheveux d'un blond 
hardi.' Shall we translate it ' hair of 
a courageous blonde ' ? It was an 
ingenious expression intended to mit- 
igate the brutality of saying that a 
woman's hair was tinged with red. 
Mademoiselle Paulet had other gifts 
besides those of beauty and fine man- 
ners. She sang and played the lute. 
- 29-1- 



HdTEL DE RAMEOUILLET 

As a tribute to the charm of her voice 
they invented the legend that two 
nightingales had been found dead (of 
envy, no doubt) at the edge of a foun- 
tain where Angelique Paulet had 
sung. Clearly when the gentlemen 
of that day set out to pay a compli- 
ment they succeeded. 

The third period in the life of Hotel 
de Rambouillet, the period of decline, 
includes the years between 1648 and 
1665. At the beginning of this pe- 
riod occurred the quarrel between the 
Uranistes and the Jobelins. The 
point of issue was which of two son- 
nets was the better, Voiture's sonnet 
on Uranie or Benserade's sonnet on 
Job. The discussion was more than 
animated. I liken it to one of those 
newspaper contentions, humorous or 



AND THE PR&CIEUSES 

acrid, with which we are familiar. 
The occasion may be slight, but the 
interest and comment are dispropor- 
tionate, as in the case of the Lady and 
the "Tiger. 

Many causes united to bring about 
the decline of Hotel de Rambouillet. 
The marriage of Julie and the death 
of Voiture made radical changes. 
The war of the Fronde threw society 
for the time being into a condition 
of absolute unrest and disorder. The 
rise of new circles where pedantry 
and literary affectation had full swing 
was not without its effect. Yet amid 
these conditions Hotel de Rambouillet 
was sound at heart ; and the names it 
honored are still honorable, such as 
Madame de La Fayette and Madame 
de Sevigne. 



HOTEL DE RAMBOUILLET 

Historians have often lamented their 
inability to give an accurate picture 
of life in the 'blue room.' We shall 
never know what it was like. An 
ancient building can be restored; it 
is not so easy to restore 4 an obliterated 
state of society/ There were times 
when the talk was almost transcen- 
dental in its perfection. Men used 
to speak of it in after years with some- 
thing like awe. Wisdom prevailed 
and affectation stayed in the back- 
ground. Chapelain was able to say 
in 1638: 'They do not talk learnedly 
but they do talk reasonably, and there 
is no place in the world where there is 
more good sense and less pedantry.' 

They used to have parlor lectures 
or readings. They discussed new 
works. Sometimes they passed a 



PR&CIEUSES 



judgment which posterity has not 
confirmed ; but that is no more than 
critics do nowadays. They consti- 
tuted themselves a literary tribunal. 
Authors, whatever they may have 
pretended to the contrary, stood in 
honest fear of this tribunal. Hotel 
de Rambouillet claimed the right to 
modify and restrict the growth of the 
French language. There was a fitness 
in this. These people were of the 
best blood, the best breeding, and the 
best literary culture in France. They 
might have contended that their use 
of words offered a standard to which 
the general public would do well to 
conform. They gave so much time 
to the question of correct speech that 
they were ridiculed for it. They 
could afford the ridicule. In one par- 
-+33*- 



<, *<* > 

HOTEL DE RAMEOUILLET 

ticular their judgment was to be pre- 
ferred to that of the mockers without 
the gate. They had the breadth of 
view to apprehend the great truth that 
fine breeding is not limited to man- 
ners and dress. He is not truly well- 
bred whose speech lacks breeding. 
What if they did discuss the ques- 
tion whether one should say muscardin 
or muscadin, sarge or serge, Roume or 
Rome ? These were not the only or 
the most vital topics of conversation. 
Rcederer answered all that sort of 
criticism upon the conversation of the 
6 blue room ' when he said : ' It is bet- 
ter to talk about words than about 
people;' and he made an infinitely 
suggestive remark when he added : 
' The passion for good language ought to 
be a national passion' 



AND THE PRtiClEUSES 

In its attitude on the great question 
of language, Hotel de Rambouillet 
offers a marked contrast to society of 
to-day. The influence of the modern 
fashionable world is more apparent in 
manners and dress than in language 
and literature. Society is well groomed, 
but its garments are uniformly more 
attractive than its parts of speech. 
Why should a woman get her hats 
from Virot and her adjectives from 
Chimmie Fadden ? Not all women 
do, to be sure. Why should any 
woman, any man, lack in fastidious- 
ness about the choice of words ? So- 
ciety ought to be as impeccable in its 
language as it is in its attire. 



35 



II 



J.LJLET us consider three men of 



letters whose influence was potent 
at Hotel de Rambouillet. They are 
d'Urfe, Malherbe, and Balzac. Only 
one of the three can be accounted 
an actual member of the circle, for 
Balzac was seldom there, and d'Urfe 
never. 

Honore d'Urfe was the author of a 
gigantic romance entitled the Astree. 
It was a continued story written in 
days when * continued' meant long con- 



HOTEL DE RAMEOUILLET 

tinned. We sometimes complain of 
the novel which runs a year in a 
monthly magazine. Let us think on 
our mercies. The admirers of the 
Astree were expected to read and to 
wait with a patience unknown to our 
hurried generation. The first two 
parts of the romance, comprising 
more than two thousand pages, were 
published in 1610. Then the public 
waited nine years for the third part, 
and eight years more for another in- 
stallment. D'Urfe died in 1625, and 
the fourth part was published by his 
private secretary, Balthazar Baro, who 
also added a fifth part, his own work, 
bringing the story to a conclusion. 
Therefore between the beginning of 
the beginning and the end of the end 
was an interval of not less than sev- 



AND THE PR&CIEUSES 

enteen years. Indeed the historians 
assign for the meditation and writing 
of this extraordinary book a quarter 
of a century. 

The Astr'ee is a pastoral romance 
more or less autobiographical. The 
hero is a youth by the name of Ce- 
ladon. His manner of loving made 
him in the eyes of readers of that day 
the ideal of constancy. The type has 
gone out of fashion. A modern 
French critic hints that one would 
more easily resign himself to being 
called a Don Juan than a Celadon. 
For the constancy which is admira- 
ble degenerates in Celadon's case 
into a humble and dog-like fidelity 
exasperating to the reader. Men 
have been the slaves of love before 
and since d'Urfe's time; but they 



HOTEL DE RAMEOUILLET 

have usually shown a healthy and 
commendable impatience. This vic- 
tim of beauty's caprice rejoices in his 
own tortures and 'adores the hand 
which strikes him.' In his melan- 
choly, his inactivity, his passionate 
endurance, Celadon is the prototype 
of Werther, Rene, and those other 
handsome young pessimists of fic- 
tion who suffer so eloquently, but 
who carefully refrain from doing any- 
thing lest they mar the edge of their 
grief. 

The Astr'ee had an enormous success. 
It became the ' code of polite society.' 
The critics find traces of its influence 
in the tragedies of Racine, the com- 
edies of Marivaux, the romances of 
Prevost, in the writings of J. J. Rous- 
seau, and even in certain stories of 



AND THE PR&CIEU8ES 

George Sand. 1 Morillot declares that 
nothing is equal to the Astree for pre- 
senting a complete and accurate pic- 
ture of the contemporaries of Balzac 
and Voiture. It is therefore one of 
the ' sources ' of the history of polite 
society. These shepherds and shep- 
herdesses who tend their flocks so grace- 
fully and pay such ingenious compli- 
ments to one another bear no relation 
to Gabriel Oak. On the contrary they 
are people of high birth wearing the 
pastoral disguise for their own plea- 
sure, and as a symbol of that peace and 
rest for which the world was beginning 
to yearn. It is a book with a key, 
and readers were pleased to think 

1 Brunetiere : Manuel, p. 105. Jusserand : 
Le Roman anglais, p. 17. 



HdTEL DE RAMEOVILLET 

tiiat in spite of the masks and the 
costumes they recognized eminent 
men and women of that day. 

The Astr'ee was happy in the class 
of readers it attracted. The book 
which could win the undisguised and 
sometimes unqualified admiration of 
Saint Francis de Sales, Camus, Patru, 
Huet, La Fontaine, Boileau, and Ma- 
dame de Sevigne must have had 
notable virtues. 

Malherbe was held in high esteem 
at Hotel de Rambouillet. Like many 
men who are self-willed, rough of 
speech, and imperious of manner, he 
could be courtly and gracious. These 
robust geniuses are easily controlled 
by a woman who commands their 
respect and admiration. Malherbe 
was civilized in the presence of the 



AND THE PR&CIEUSBS 

Marquise, and his poetry was at all 
times civilized. 

Malherbe's verse was that of a man 
who thought much but was seldom 
inspired. 'He was a poet of the 
second order,' says Pergameni, ' a poet 
by reflection rather than by instinct,' 
one of that class in whom reason takes 
the place of heart. His writing lacked 
blood, perhaps; the man himself was 
altogether human, positive, egoistic, 
tyrannical. 

He reminds us a little of Dr. John- 
son. He had Johnson's pungent wit, 
overbearing manner, frankness of 
speech, and reverence for authority. 
He was like Johnson in the want of 
external correspondence between the 
poetical product and man who pro- 
duced. Like him, too, in the way in 



HOTEL DE RAMBOUILLET 

which he would browbeat and intim- 
idate his circle of worshipers and 
pupils. That anecdote has the true 
Johnsonian flavor which describes 
Malherbe repeating some verses to 
Racan and then asking how he liked 
them. Racan excused himself from 
giving an opinion : ' I could not 
understand them, you ate half of the 
words.' Malherbe, irritated, ex- 
claimed : ' Mortdieu ! if you make 
me angry I '11 eat them all. They 
are mine; since I made them I am 
able to do what I please with them.' 

That satirical observer Tallemant 
de Reaux says that Malherbe was the 
worst reciter in the world, and spoiled 
his beautiful verses in repeating them. 
It was hardly possible to understand 
him on account of the impediment 



AND THE PRfiCIEUSES 

in his speech and the thickness of 
his voice. ' Besides this he spat at 
least six times in reciting one stanza 
of four lines. This is why the Cav- 
alier Marini said that he had never 
seen a man so wet nor a poet so 
dry.' 

Tallemant gives a handful of such 
anecdotes which help us to conceive 
the brusque old poet as vividly as if 
he had been provided with a Boswell. 
It was a part of Malherbe's mission 
to castigate bad versifiers, or at least 
versifiers whom he considered bad. 
He went to dine with Desportes, who 
received him graciously and offered 
to give him a version of the Psalms 
which he had just printed. ' Do not 
trouble,' said Malherbe, ' I have seen 
them ; your soup is worth more than 



HOTEL DE RAMEOUILLET 

your Psalms.' The dinner is said to 
have been eaten in silence. 

He expressed his opinion of human 
nature in his characteristic comment 
on the death of Abel. ' Was n't that 
a fine debut ! There were only three 
or four human beings in the world, 
and they began to kill one another; 
after that, what was God able to hope 
from mankind that He should take 
the trouble to preserve them ? ' 

Malherbe's services to French liter- 
ature were on the side of restraint, 
finish, nobility of form, perfection in 
handling the materials of poetry. He 
was late in beginning, and he worked 
with such deliberation that he left but 
a slender volume of verse. His in- 
fluence was wide-reaching in his own 
day, and in this happy age of crum- 



AND THE PR&CIEUSE 

bling idols he is secure in his reputa- 
tion as a seventeenth century classic. 
Even the gibes of an Arsene Hous- 
saye cannot affect him much. As an 
illustration of his willingness to let a 
poem bide its time and slowly grow 
into perfection they cite his verses ad- 
dressed to the first president of Ver- 
dun. Malherbe wished to console this 
gentleman for the death of his wife. 
6 By the time the stanzas were finished 
the gentleman had been consoled, re- 
married, and was himself dead' 

In his ill-kept and badly furnished 
apartments Malherbe presided over a 
literary circle composed of younger 
poets who recognized him as the 
master. The best known of these 
pupils was Racan, author of the Ber- 
geries, a more absent-minded gentle- 



HOTEL DE RAMEOUILLET 

man than Parson Adams, if the stories 
told of him be not exaggerations. 

He was 'caught young' by Mal- 
herbe, who ruled him as an old-time 
pedagogue might have done, even 
forbidding his pupil to marry, and 
criticising his verse with caustic sever- 
ity. Malherbe kept Racan humble by 
telling him that a poet was of no more 
use to his country than a skittles-player, 
and that if their own verses lived after 
them they would be praised as men 
who had been rather clever in arran- 
ging words in a certain order, but who 
were on the whole fools to spend their 
time that way. 

Balzac is usually disposed of by 
calling him the Malherbe of prose, 
a facile kind of criticism made familiar 
to us in those attempts to explain 



AND THE PRfiCIEUSES 

George Meredith by speaking of him 
as a prose Browning. He was a rhe- 
torician, this Jean-Louis Guez de 
Balzac, who employed the epistolary 
form as best suited to his literary 
needs. James Howell read Balzac's 
letters, and finding them little to his 
taste, said so in terms which it will 
be proper not to repeat. We need to 
read but one of Balzac's grandiose 
epistles and follow it with a * familiar 
letter ' of James Howell to understand 
how antipathetic the Englishman and 
the Frenchman were, and that for rea- 
sons with which racial antagonism had 
nothing to do. The letters of Balzac 
are the opposite of familiar. They 
contain none of the element which 
gives charm to what in this day are 
called letters. With us a letter is 



HOTEL DE RAMEOUILLET 

something natural, chatty, unostenta- 
tious. The sentences are short, the 
language colloquial. One speaks of 
the sorrow of breaking in a new cook 
or a new pair of shoes. Domestic 
adventures are not tabooed, nor does 
the writer disdain to give the thrilling 
history of the last church social. In 
short, when we speak of a letter we 
mean the most informal type of liter- 
ary composition, a thing written with 
such careless good nature that we are 
confused at the thought of having it 
seen by any other eye than that for 
which it was originally intended. 

When, however, Balzac wrote let- 
ters he wished them to be seen of men. 
The letters might be addressed to a 
great lord or a powerful churchman, 
but they were meant to be read by 

-! 5O-*- 



AND THE PR&CIEUSES 

who could appreciate them, and most 
of all by posterity. For a time Bal- 
zac's vogue was extraordinary. He 
was spoken of not merely as the most 
eloquent man in France, such praise 
was too reserved and judicial : he was 
the only eloquent man in France. 
When he was but twenty-four years 
of age Perron said of him to Coeffe- 
teau : ' If he goes on as he has begun, 
he will be the master of masters/ 
They were speaking of his literary 
style. 

It is well to be suspicious of a sev- 
enteenth century Frenchman when 
he comes bearing compliments. Two 
men of letters might be depended 
upon to exchange verbal caresses 
whatever they privately thought one 
of the other. Nevertheless there 



HOTEL DE RAMBOUILLET 

must have been a measure of sincerity 
among them. This extract from one 
of Voiture's letters shows how it was 
customary to address Balzac. The 
illustration is all the better for coming 
from Voiture, who used to spice his 
compliments with minute touches of 
malice and irony. ' To-day all men 
listen to you. No one who under- 
stands how to read is indifferent. 
They who are jealous for the honor of 
this kingdom take no more pains to 
learn what Monsieur the Marshal de 
Crequy is doing than to learn what 
you are doing. And we have more 
than two generals in the army who do 
not make so great a sensation with 
thirty thousand men as do you in your 
solitude.' 

Voiture reached the superlative of 



AND THE PRCIEUSS 

panegyric with perfect ease, like the 
accomplished man of the world that 
he was. There was nothing to say 
more emphatic than this : Balzac was 
more in the public eye than two gen- 
erals each with thirty thousand men. 

In the pretty little edition of Les 
CEuvres diverse* du Sieur de Balzac 
published at Leyden by Jean Elzevier 
in 1658 will be found four ' discourses,' 
inscribed to the Marquise de Ram- 
bouillet. They comprise about sixty 
pages, and are in part the outcome of 
conversations which may have taken 
place in the 'blue room.' One is 
on the Roman Character, another is 
the continuation of a talk on Conver- 
sation among the Romans, the third is 
on Mecenas, the fourth on Glory. 
Upon the testimony of these letters 



HOTEL DE RAMBOUILLET 

Roederer bases his argument for the 
high intellectual tone of Hotel de 
Rambouillet. The Marquise was 
genuinely interested in these themes. 
The woman who could call out such 
discourses from the ' grand epistolier 
de France ' was neither a pedant nor 
a precieuse. For the discourses do 
not contain enough of the pedantic to 
satisfy a blue-stocking, nor enough of 
affectation to amuse a precieuse. And 
it would be attributing an excess of 
vanity to Balzac to suppose that in 
writing to the Marquise he had no 
disinterested motive, that he thought 
chiefly of the admiring comment which 
would be called out by the reading 
of his highly finished essays in that 
part of the great world whose praise 
was best worth having. 




Ill 



LE are warned not to think of 
this great house as a sort of Academy, 
a mere club of pedants and blue- 
stockings. It was not that. It was 
emphatically the gay world, life, so- 
ciety. Everything was there which 
the world enjoys, with perhaps a touch 
of ceremonial reserve hitherto un- 
known. There might be grave argu- 
ments over the use of prepositions, or 
the propriety of admitting a new word 
to the French language, but there was 



HOTEL DE RAMEOUILLET 

also music and dancing. In a house 
filled with young people, pleasure will 
be the order of many days. The 
party for pleasure at Hotel de Ram- 
bouillet was organized and headed by 
Vincent Voiture. 

Voiture was what the French call, 
with untranslatable felicity, un bel 
esprit; in England they would say 
a wit. His career shows how demo- 
cratic Hotel de Rambouillet was, and 
how entirely amiable qualities atoned 
for the lack of a grandfather. Voi- 
ture was of humble birth, the son of a 
wine-merchant of Amiens, but his 
gifts carried him to a foremost place 
in the most cultivated society of his 
day. Men of highest rank treated 
him as an equal. He had abundance 
of animal spirits, and he also had tact, 



AND THE PRCIEUSES 

suppleness of intellect, humor, a know- 
ledge of men and women. People 
admired his cleverness and marveled 
at his audacity. The Due d'Enghien 
once said : * If Voiture were of our 
rank he would be unendurable.' 
When he grew old Voiture became 
peevish, and was tolerated just as if 
he had been a lord or a rich uncle. 

Cousin praises Voiture because he 
was 6 the first example of a man of 
letters who lived among the great 
and still maintained his independence/ 
The praise would be justly bestowed 
if it were true that Voiture took the 
attitude of a professed man of letters. 
He did not. He trifled at literature. 
But he trifled with exceeding care, and 
his works live after him. He wrote 
letters and poems. He printed no- 



HOTEL DE RAMEOUILLET 

thing during his lifetime. When, after 
his death, these writings were collected 
and published in two volumes, people 
laughed at the title which the literary 
executor gave to them the Works 
of Vincent Voiture. But every histo- 
rian of French literature takes them 
into account. Cousin gives Voiture 
the credit of being inventor of what 
we would now call vers de societe. 
This poet would live if only by virtue 
of his connection with Hotel de Ram- 
bouillet. Honors are still done him. 
Andrew Lang translates him, and Ger- 
man Gelehrte write theses on his 
syntax. 

In the Grand Dictionnaire des Pre- 
cieuses Voiture figures under the name 
of Valere, that is, Valerius. His in- 
fluence among the little salons was so 



AND THE PR&CIEUSES 

great that if he showed himself once 
at a lady's house her reputation as a 
precieuse was made. 

At Hotel de Rambouillet he ex- 
erted to the utmost his extraordinary 
powers of entertainment. He ex- 
celled in that which we vaguely and 
helplessly describe as the art of keep- 
ing things going. A house which 
was at no time a solemn place was far- 
ther than ever from solemnity when 
he was present. Moreover we are in 
France, and France is gay, and the 
French are a gay people. We are 
to take for granted all those things in 
which youth delights, the fetes, the 
fancy-dress balls, the collations, the 
picnics. They loved to travesty my- 
thological scenes in the ample Pare 
Rambouillet; this was their way of 



HdTEL DE RAMBOUILLET 

presenting Gibson tableaux. Half 
the charm of their comedies and fetes 
grew out of the improvised character 
of these things. That genius of the 
Latin race for doing the right thing at 
exactly the right time came into play. 
What our cold Anglo-Saxon tempera- 
ment would spoil was infinitely light 
and graceful under their touch. 

Voiture also had a taste for the 
kind of joke called practical. For 
this he has been reproved. Bourciez 
calls him the enfant terrible of Hotel 
de Rambouillet. One illustration of 
his mischievous wit is given in all the 
books. He encountered on the street 
a wandering animal-trainer with two 
dancing bears. He brought all three 
up stair and through corridor into the 
room where, on the other side of a 



AND THE PRGCIEUSES 

large screen, the Marquise and a group 
of her friends were sitting. One can 
guess the consternation of this lady 
when, on hearing a scuffling behind 
her, she looked around and saw four 
hairy paws resting on the top of the 
screen with muzzles laid between them 
and bearish eyes blinking down upon 
her. 

Was it in punishment for this jest 
that the Marquise persuaded Voiture 
that he was almost losing his mind, 
or at least becoming an unconscious 
plagiarist? He used, after the ap- 
proved custom of the day, to hand his 
verses about in manuscript. The 
Marquise had one of his newest poems 
printed and the leaf bound into 
a volume. Then she called his at- 
tention to the extraordinary resem- 



HOTEL DE RAMBOUILLET 

blance between the two poems. For 
the moment Voiture was staggered, 
and fully believed that at the time he 
was, as he supposed, writing original 
verse, he must have been remember- 
ing something he had read. 

Another personage at Hotel de 
Rambouillet was the Due de Montau- 
sier. He played as prominent a 
role as Voiture, but was so utterly un- 
like the little poet that the two men 
form a piquant contrast. 

Montausier made his first appear- 
ance at Hotel de Rambouillet in 1631. 
He was then Marquis de Salle, and 
barely twenty-two years of age. He 
became enamored of Julie, and later 
an aspirant for her hand. If it were 
ever true that a young lady accepted 
a suitor because all the world spoke 



AND THE PR&CIEUSES 

well of him, Montausier would have 
made easy conquest, for he was a man 
whom no one named unless to praise. 
This is a little surprising since his 
virtues were of a rugged and militant 
sort. The tradition is significant 
which says that Moliere drew from 
Montausier some of the finest traits 
in the character of the Misanthrope. 

Most men who pay court to wo- 
men expect their reward within a 
reasonable time. This particular 
courtship was protracted to thirteen 
years. It is accounted a phenomenal 
case in the annals of love-making. 
We are not, however, to suppose 
that Montausier spent thirteen years 
at the lady's feet, breathing amorous 
sighs, and writing sonnets to her 
beauty. Some gallants made love in 



HOTEL DE RAMEOUILLET 

this feeble fashion, imitating Celadon 
in the Astr'ee. Montausier was of 
more heroic build. He was a soldier. 
His courting was ' punctuated ' with 
battles, wounds, and imprisonments. 
But he returned from the wars with 
but one thought to win the hand 
of Julie d'Angennes. The situation 
became intense. Everybody wondered 
how it was going to turn out. The 
lover was worthy of his mistress, but 
she wished not to marry. 'He laid 
siege to the fortress of her affections 
strictly in accordance with the rules/ 
All the world, as the French say, be- 
came absorbed in this interesting 
drama. The most intimate friends of 
the Marquise took it upon themselves 
to speak in Montausier's behalf. Even 
the great Richelieu brought his in- 



AND THE PRfCIEUSBS 

fluence to bear. The courtship was 
so long drawn out that there was time 
for the aspect of French politics to 
change, and a new minister to come 
into power ; Mazarin was no less sym- 
pathetic than his illustrious predeces- 
sor. Even the Queen spoke for Mon- 
tausier. The young man himself 
took one step which meant a good 
deal in those days; he changed his 
religion. The house of d'Angennes 
was Catholic ; Montausier was a Cal- 
vinist. He embraced the old faith, 
and observed that it made little differ- 
ence by which route one went to 
Heaven. 

Montausier, as I have said, was 
twenty-two years old when he first 
saw Julie d'Angennes. He was thirty- 
five when the marriage took place. 



HOTEL DE RAMEOUILLET 

This was in 1645. The bride was 
three years older than her husband. 

In 1641 Montausier complimented 
the lady of his affections with that 
graceful gift known as the Guirlande 
de Julie. It was a beautiful folio 
volume, the leaves of vellum, the 
binding of red morocco doublee by 
Le Gascon, and bearing the mono- 
gram J-L, for Julie-Lucine, both on 
the outside and inside of the cover. 
The frontispiece was a ' zephyr ' hold- 
ing in one hand a rose and in the other 
a garland of twenty-nine flowers. On 
the succeeding leaves of the volume 
each flower was painted separately by 
Robert, and beneath were madrigals 
inscribed in the hand of the famous 
calligraphist, Nicholas Jarry. The 
madrigals were sixty-two in number. 

^66 H- 



AND THE PR&CIEUSES 

Nineteen poets contributed, among 
them Chapelain, Gombauld, Scudery, 
Racan, and Conrart. Sixteen of the 
threescore poems are by Montausier 
himself. Voiture alone of those whom 
we should expect to find represented 
was not of the number. Did the en- 
fant terrible of Hotel de Rambouillet 
actually 'pout' and refuse to play, 
as Bourciez hints ? In 1855 Cousin 
was able to thank God in a manner 
truly French that the Guirlande de 
Julie was still in existence, a carefully 
guarded treasure in one of the noble 
houses of France. It has been upon 
the market at least once, and then 
brought the considerable sum of three 
thousand dollars. That was a hun- 
dred years ago. One hardly dares to 
think to what towering height the 
-1-67 -i- 



HOTEL DE RAMEOUILLET 

virtuosi and bibliophiles of to-day 
might run the price if the Garland 
were to be brought to the block. 

Historians date the decline of Ho- 
tel de Rambouillet from Julie's mar- 
riage. She represented the younger 
life of the stately house. If the Mar- 
quise herself could not be called old 
in 1645, she was at least of middle 
age ; she had passed her fifty-seventh 
birthday. For thirty-five years she 
had presided over a circle whose name 
is to this day the synonym for refine- 
ment and culture. During that time 
other women had learned, partly from 
her, the art of conducting a salon. 
Many of these women were gifted 
and of high social standing. They 
were able to preside with grace and 
intelligence. Many of them were of 



PRtiCIEUSES 



little culture and possessed only of 
the imitative faculty. The best they 
could do was to travesty what they 
had seen or heard in the ' blue room,' 
or still worse to travesty what they 
had not known by experience but 
only heard about. Between 1645 and 
1 648 a new word * precieuse ' began 
to pass from lip to lip. Without 
attempting to give an accurate defi- 
nition to it the public adopted it. 
They to whom the word was applied 
accepted it with complacency; they 
who applied it to others did so with 
an accent which might mean anything 
from admiration to contempt. 



69- 




IV 



LHO were the Precieuses ? We 
are usually taught to believe that all 
the habitual frequenters of the ' blue 
room ' are to be so accounted. But 
Roederer, the first historian to have 
definite ideas on the subject, and the 
historian who has succeeded in im- 
posing his ideas on all other writ- 
ers, says not so. As I understand 
him, Preciosity may have cradled in 
the ' blue room, 5 and the Marquise de 
Rambouillet will always be reputed 



HdTEL DE RAMBOUILLET 

its mother; but she is 'not to be held 
responsible for the later vagaries of 
her offspring. 

Take the so-called English ses- 
thetic movement of a few years since. 
Ruskin was in a way responsible for 
the whole affair, sun-flowers, knee- 
breeches, clinging garments, the opera 
of Patience, all of it. That is to 
say, he was as much responsible for it 
as the Marquise de Rambouillet was 
responsible for the antics of the pre- 
cieuses. Hotel de Rambouillet had 
its affectations, but the extravagances 
which called out the satire of Moliere 
were devised by the precieuses for 
their own peculiar enjoyment. Even 
at the time when Marini, the Nea- 
politan poet, was her honored guest, 
he who is thought to represent verbal 



AND THE PR&CIEUSES 

affectation carried to its extreme, the 
Marquise remained faithful to Mal- 
herbe. The poet of law and order 
was her poet. 

Every good and useful thing has its 
parody. There is not a patent medi- 
cine of reputed worth which does not 
bear upon its label the warning, ' Be- 
ware of imitations.' 

The salons which came into exist- 
ence just before and during the de- 
cline of Hotel de Rambouillet were 
modeled more or less imperfectly 
upon it. No woman had the social 
gifts of the Marquise, no woman could 
hope to bring together such a number 
of shining lights. They did what 
they could. Some did well and some 
did very ill. In almost every case 
there was lack of a wholesome re- 
-+73*- 



HOTEL DE RAMEOUILLET 

straining force. It ws hardly pos- 
sible to play the fool before the stately 
Marquise and her daughters, before 
real wits and real poets; but there 
was no end to the airs these women 
put on when they set up, each for 
herself, a petty literary court. 

Four or five of these salons deserve 
only courteous mention. Such were 
Hotel d'Albret and Hotel de Riche- 
lieu, which continued the aristocratic 
traditions of the ' blue room.' Hotel 
d'Albret was a princely mansion where 
one met the best of society, attracted 
there by the hospitality of the marshal, 
his high position, and his genuine 
love of conversation and letters. 
Monsieur and Madame de Richelieu 
had about the same guests that one 
found at Hotel d'Albret ; for example, 



AND THE PRCIEUSES 

Madame de Scarron was often to be 
seen at these houses. They were 
spoken of as copies, and in a way 
continuations, of Hotel de Rambou- 
illet. But they lacked a Voiture, by 
whose vivacity and wit their reputa- 
tion might be carried down to pos- 
terity. 1 

Other circles of distinction were 
those of Mademoiselle de Montpen- 
sier, the daughter of'Gaston, Due d'Or- 
leans, the lady general of the Fronde, 
now living in splendid ' disgrace ' at 
the Luxembourg; of Madame de 
Longueville, Madame de Sable, and 
Madame de La Fayette. The world 
is indebted to two of these women 

1 Rcederer : Memoir e sur la Societe polie, chap, 
xiii. 



HOTEL DE RAMBOUILLET 

for their share in the Maxims of 
La Rochefoucauld. The Marquise 
de Sable wrote maxims. So did the 
members of her circle. At this house, 
whose attractions were sufficient to 
bring Arnauld and Pascal, the con- 
versation turned on high and serious 
themes, metaphysics, theology, physi- 
cal science, grammar. How vital the 
question of correct speech was held to 
be we know from a little book on the 
art of translation written by the gen- 
tleman who called himself Sieur de 
Lestang, and dedicated to Madame 
de Sable. ' I know,' he says, ' that the 
masters of our language consult you 
in their doubts, make you the arbi- 
tress of their differences, and submit 
to your decisions. In truth you are 
the person who best knows all the 



AND THE PR&CIEUSES 

laws and rules of discourse, who best 
knows how to utter sentiments and 
ideas with grace and clarity, who 
best knows how to employ those 
happy forms of expression at once 
ingenious, charming, and characteris- 
tically French. In short, you are the 
one who best knows all those myster- 
ies and delicacies of style of which 
Monsieur de Vaugelas speaks.' 

The Maxims of La Rochefoucauld 
as they appeared in their earliest form 
represent the genius of their author 
plus the influence of Madame de 
Sable. In their later and less cynical 
form is to be perceived a measure of 
the humanizing and generous influ- 
ence of Madame de La Fayette. One 
may not speak lightly of the tastes, 
manners, or occupations of any one 



HOTEL DE RAMEOUILLET 

of these ' ruelles of the 1 second order/ 
There must have been much that was 
admirable in the life there, since it 
compelled the admiration of Huet, 
La Fontaine, La Rochefoucauld, and 
Madame de Sevigne. 

The most spectacular of these 
lesser coteries was that of Madeleine 
de Scudery. Brunetiere is sneering in 
his tone when he speaks of this lady : 
' Cette pauvre Sapho,' he says. She 
had many admirable qualities, though 
it seems extravagant to call her, as 
M. Barthelemy does, ' the most re- 
markable figure of the seventeenth 
century.' She composed romances of 
a length unknown to the feeble read- 
ers of our day. Every story was in 
ten volumes when it was not in more ; 
and every volume was a quarto. At 



AND THE PR&CIEUSES 

first glance one would incline to say 
that a single romance by Madeleine 
de Scudery contained almost as much 
' reading matter ' as all the Waverley 
novels taken together. She was the 
most pitiless writer of fiction that the 
world has ever known. Even M. 
Barthelemy admits that her romances 
seem long and monotonous to us. 

It is beyond belief that her books 
were ever read at least that they 
were ever read through. The fasci- 
nation they exercised was in part due 
to the fact that under classical names 
were to be recognized notable con- 
temporaries. People read the Grand 
Cyrus in order to see themselves as 
Madeleine de Scudery saw them. 
The manners, events, ideas were of 
their own day, and not of some vague 



H6TEL DE RAMBOUILLET 

past as they pretended to be. The 
characters have been identified. Vic- 
tor Cousin devoted two volumes 
comprising nearly a thousand pages 
to an interpretation of French society 
in the seventeenth century according 
to the Grand Cyrus. Mandane is 
the Duchesse de Longueville; Cyrus 
is the great Conde; Cleomire is the 
Marquise de Rambouillet ; Angelique 
Paulet is Elise ; and so on. 

The romance of Clelie has for 
frontispiece a remarkable map designed 
by Mademoiselle de Scudery to illus- 
trate the progress of the 'great pas- 
sion.' It is a map of the Kingdom 
of Tenderness. Here are pleasant 
valleys, hills and plains, villages and 
cities. There is a well-defined road 
which lovers may travel. They 



PR&CIEUSES 



wander along the shore of the Lake 
of Indifference and presently come to 
the town of Respect. Then they 
pass through a number of villages 
such as Love-letter, Letter-gallant, 
Pretty-verses, Complaisance, Submis- 
sion, Little Attentions, Assiduity, 
Eagerness, Sensibility. In this way 
one fell in love according to Made- 
moiselle de Scudery. On her map 
there was also a perfidious river called 
Inclination, perfidious because it led 
to the Ocean Dangerous. All this sen- 
timental rubbish was highly esteemed 
in the year 1656, not alone by the 
precieuses, but by people of taste and 
judgment as well; and a grave and 
learned body of men, the French 
Academy, bestowed on ' La Scuderi ' 
the Balzac prize of Eloquence. 



HOTEL DE RAMEOUILLET 

In Alfred de Vigiiy's historical ro- 
mance of Cinq-Mars is a scene at the 
house of Marion de Lorme where are 
gathered together among numerous 
gallants and fine gentlemen certain 
men of letters, Corneille, young Moli- 
ere, Georges de Scudery, the brother 
of Madeleine, also Descartes, two or 
three members of the Academy, and, 
of all men, John Milton ! Georges de 
Scudery has a map of the Kingdom 
of Tenderness which he explains to 
an admiring group. Young Poque- 
lin professes not to find the wit of the 
4 carte de Tendre ' very interesting, is 
snubbed into silence, and consoles 
himself by meditating the Precieuses 
ridicules. Later in the evening Mil- 
ton recites from Paradise Lost to the 
satisfaction of a few of his auditors 



AND THE PRfiCIEUSES 

and to the dismay of the majority. 
The scene is not entirely convincing. 
There are too many distinguished 
men on the stage at the same time. 
The effect is exaggerated and theat- 
rical. Undoubtedly the episode is 
best judged from a point of view quite 
other than that which an Englishman 
or an American would naturally take. 
Alfred de Vigny's motive is none the 
less suggestive ; he wishes to contrast 
the product of the salons and coteries 
with that greater literature which is 
independent of fashion and unaffected 
by the caprices of society. 

When a woman is plain she may 
be praised for some virtue which is 
superior to good looks. The critic 
who described Madeleine de Scudery 
as a ' homely old maid ' was generous 



HOTEL DE RAMBOUILLET 

enough to add that she was ' good.' 
She was a very amiable woman and 
had been cordially received at Hotel 
de Rambouillet. That she got many 
of her ideas there is indisputable ; it 
is not so easy to believe, as some 
writers would have us believe, that 
she represented the pure tradition of 
the * blue room ' of Arthenice. 

She began to hold her famous 
'Saturdays' some time between 1645 
and 1650. Her house became the 
6 normal school ' of precieuses of the 
thorough-going sort. Wherein it dif- 
fered from that more splendid school 
of manners at Hotel de Rambouillet 
is clearly explained by Cousin. At 
the older house the circle was largely 
aristocratic, distinguished by fine blood 
as well as by fine breeding. If the 



AND THE PR&CIEUSES 

conversation was of literature, that did 
not preclude other themes. ' They 
talked of everything, of war, of reli- 
gion, of politics.' The influence which 
emanated from this society was far- 
reaching because the matters there dis- 
cussed were of varied interest, not con- 
fined to belles-lettres. On the other 
hand the ' Saturdays ' were out and out 
literary, and therefore apt to be afflicted 
with that malaise which is always 
apparent if a number of people with 
' literary leanings ' get together. The 
salon of Mademoiselle de Scudery 
had its better and its worse state, to 
be sure, but the general tendency 
was in the direction of preciosity 
pure and simple. Moreover the so- 
ciety was mixed. A few members of 
the elite came from time to time, 



HOTEL DE RAMEOUILLET 

but the ' Saturdays' as "a whole lacked 
distinction. 

Cousin makes this comparison. At 
Hotel de Rambouillet men and wo- 
men sought to express noble things 
in a simple manner ; at the ' Satur- 
days ' they seemed to be trying to utter 
unimportant things in a manner both 
strained and pretentious. 



86- 



HP 

JLHE small salons increased in 
number. The frequenters thereof 
multiplied. The new word ' precieuse ' 
began to be used in a restricted sense. 
The word was not so used until about 
thirteen years after the great period of 
Hotel de Rambouillet. 

How marked the contrast was be- 
tween the older house and the new 
salons becomes clear when we note 
the themes of conversation among the 
precieuses. For example, they dis- 



HOTEL DE RAMBOUILLET 

cussed the great question whether 
history should be preferred to romance, 
or romance to history. Being new 
women, they were agitated over the 
question how much liberty it was 
woman's right to enjoy. Some took 
the ground that if husbands were sus- 
picious, then it was the privilege of 
wives to give them a reason for sus- 
picion. One may guess accurately 
how such a topic would have been 
received at Hotel de Rambouillet ! 
They mingled all kinds of diverse in- 
terests in a manner truly grotesque. 
They prepared a manual of conversa- 
tion. They dressed dolls with a view 
to studying the effect of the new 
fashions which they proposed to in- 
troduce. They conversed in a manner 
so alambiquee that it ended like the 



PR&C1EUSES 



meeting of a Browning society no 
one of them could understand the 
others. They made impromptus and 
madrigals. In short, they did all 
sorts of things, no one of which would 
they have dared to do at Hotel de 
Rambouillet. Yet in many instances 
they seemed to have learned their les- 
son of the older house. But the dig- 
nity, the ceremonial repression which 
the Marquise herself exercised together 
with her own personal sweetness and 
good sense all these elements were 
lacking. 

They annexed, though they can 
hardly be said to have conquered, the 
entire kingdom of knowledge. Some 
were philosophical. A precieuse who 
had lost a friend by death gave a dis- 
quisition on grief. She maintained the 



HOTEL DE RAMBOUILLET 

i 
interesting thesis that the chief purpose 

of grief is to help one to live over again 
all the pleasure one has enjoyed with 
the lost friend. Others took the 
homely position that the object of 
grief is to make one miserable. Ma- 
demoiselle Dupre, an acquaintance of 
Mademoiselle de Scudery, became 
passionately addicted to the philosophy 
of Descartes. She interpreted it to 
her friends, though it is quite possible 
that her interpretation of Cartesianism 
belongs in the same category with 
Mrs. Montague's 'defense' of Shake- 
speare. Her ambitions were duly re- 
cognized, however, and in her par- 
ticular circle she was called 'La 
Cartesienne.' 

Some of the precieuses were enthu- 
siastic over physical science. They 



AND THE PR&CIEUSES 

could readily be induced to leave it 
and talk literature. For example, 
Was Corneille to be preferred to Ben- 
serade? And might not Chapelain 
be preferred to either ? 

They were perhaps most active over 
questions of grammar and rhetoric. 
They invented many new phrases and 
expressions to the eternal laughter of 
outsiders, and to their own supreme 
content. Not a few of these phrases 
survive to this day and are accounted 
good French. On the other hand, 
with this passion for neologisms, they 
seem really to have striven for that 
happy medium between the slipshod 
and the pompous and extravagant type 
of speech. At least 'they made a 
solemn vow that in conversation they 
would aim in purity of style at the 



HOTEL DE RAMEOUILLET 

rooting out of words in questionable 
taste, and they proclaimed unending 
war against pedants and provincials.' 

They brought about a radical 
change in spelling. They decided to 
abolish the superfluous letters from 
such words as teste, hostel, tousjours, 
goust, and the like. Such changes as 
they made still hold good. To this 
day people spell these words tete, 
hotel, toujours, gout. Roederer quotes 
from Somaize a list of one hundred 
and thirty-four words, nearly all of 
which owe their present spelling to 
the influence of the precieuses. This 
is an interesting fact, for we have it 
on the authority of Tallemant that 
some of the precieuses never learned 
to spell at all. 

The truth is, preciosity includes so 



AND THE PRMCIEUSES 

many contradictory elements that it is 
difficult to characterize it. One would 
suppose from the attitude of hostile 
critics that it was a deadly sin to be 
a precieuse. Whether it was or not 
seems really to have depended upon 
the kind of precieuse one was. There 
were many varieties, some neither 
admirable nor the reverse, some quite 
ridiculous. To this last class belonged 
such women as Madelon and Cathos 
in the play. In fact, to call a woman 
a precieuse was to be indefinite. 
There must be a qualifying adjective. 
The lady might be a precieuse illustre, 
or a precieuse grande, or simply a 
precieuse ridicule ; and it was a long 
way from first to last. The chief de- 
fect of preciosity as it showed itself 
in ruelles of the second and third 



HOTEL DE RAMBOUILLET 

order was its glorifications of trifles. 
These people loved to play at literary 
games, but they had no great care for 
literature. They delighted in mere 
bagatelles, such as enigmas and sonnets 
to a lady's eyebrow. We are appalled 
at the sight of Dean Swift spending 
his final melancholy days in writing 
conundrums ; it was the last infirmity 
of a mind which if not noble had at 
least noble qualities. But what shall 
we say when a whole society of intel- 
ligent men and women give them- 
selves up to such frivolities? And 
one is astonished to see with how 
grave a face they carried on their 
elaborate fooling. There must have 
been a few who would gladly have 
broken away from bagatelles, whether 
literary or conversational, in order to 



AND THE PR&CIEUSES 

introduce more wholesome influence. 
The courage was lacking. The pun- 
ishment for taking one's ease in these 
charming courts was that one con- 
formed to what appeared to be the 
chief source of their charm. A man 
might know that he was stifling the 
higher and more rugged qualities of 
literature, but he conformed just the 
same. 

This bright, artificial world had its 
historiographer. His name was So- 
maize. He holds a place in the an- 
nals of literature not because he was 
a writer, but because he made a Dic- 
tionary of the Precieuses, containing 
pen-portraits, comments on their phi- 
losophy, and a collection of their 
phrases and circumlocutions. There 
were two editions of the dictionary, - 



HOTEL DE RAMEOUILLET 

one little and one big. The c grand * 
dictionary gives the names of seven 
hundred recognized precieuses, never 
the real name, to be sure, but a classi- 
cal counterpart which was understood 
by the elect. 

Somaize defends the precieuses, or 
at least seems to do so. He combats 
the popular error that a precieuse is a 
woman at least forty-five years old, 
plain, and opposed to matrimony. It 
is a mistake also to suppose that the 
possession of wit alone entitles wo- 
men to be called precieuses. Only 
they may be so designated who busy 
themselves in writing or in correcting 
the writing of others, who lay stress 
upon the reading of romances, and 
above all, who invent ways of speak- 
ing which are bizarre in their novelty 
-1-96 -i- 



AND THE PR&CIEUSES 

and unusual in their significance. 
Somaize says that it was one of the 
doctrines of the precieuses that a 
thought was of no value when it 
could be understood by all the world ; 
they held themselves under obligation 
to speak otherwise than do common 
people, so that their ideas might be 
grasped only by those who have men- 
tal powers above the vulgar. Thus 
he accounts for their efforts to destroy 
the old language and substitute for it 
one th^t is not only new, but peculiar 
to themselves. 

If you were a genuine precieuse 
you had two names, one the name 
which your parents gave you, the 
other a poetical name, nom de Par- 
nasse. This seems foolish, but is not 
so foolish as it seems. I do not speak 



i -fr* 

HdTEL DE RAMEOUILLET 

by the card, but I take it the custom 
partly originated in the need to have 
a more euphonious word for poetry 
than is offered in the average proper 
name. And we all know that privi- 
leges are accorded poets which are 
denied to commercial travelers. Lan- 
dor addressed a poem to 4 lanthe.' 
This was not the young lady's name ; 
she was a Miss Jones. But one can- 
not use that sort of name in poetry 
any more than he can E. Mandeville 
Stubbs or M. Pett Mudge. , To be 
sure Wordsworth did it, but he failed 
to establish the practice as a universal 
poetic custom. It is a mere question 
of euphony. Wilkinson sounds harsh 
in poetry, yet the ear hears with de- 
light such phrases as 'Sidney's sister 
Pembroke's mother.' Those words 
-1-98^ 



AND THE PRfiClEUSES 

were not without grace long before 
they acquired the meaning which we 
attach to them. 

Moreover this renaming of people 
is an innocent sophistication which 
has the sanction of antiquity. It pre- 
vails in all literature of a certain age. 
Men were never themselves, but al- 
ways somebody else, and the most 
fashionable of gentlemen and ladies 
loved to think that they were shep- 
herds and shepherdesses. Shake- 
speare does not speak of Marlowe as 
the ' late Christopher Marlowe,' or as 
the 6 distinguished playwright and 
poet who has so recently died,' but 
calls him ' shepherd.' Malherbe re- 
christened the Marquise de Ram- 
bouillet Arthenice, an anagram on 
Catherine. This fact has disturbed 



HOTEL DE RAMEOUILLET 

some critics like the readable Paul 
Albert, for example, who calls Hotel 
de Rambouillet a ' hot-house ' in 
which were nursed exotic plants 
brought from Italy and Spain, plants 
of no particular use except to show 
Frenchmen what queer literary flora 
was produced in foreign lands. 

Preciosity is after all only a matter 
of degree. It is well to be refined ; 
the sin of the precieuses consisted in 
refining upon refinement until spon- 
taneity and naturalness were entirely 
lost. Take that question of the 
choice of words. At Hotel de Ram- 
bouillet it seemed best to avoid cer- 
tain words and to substitute circum- 
locutions. There is no harm in this. 
Let language be made as pliant as 
possible. But let this flexibility be 

-H IOOH- 



AND THE PR&CIEUSES 

obtained by legitimate means, and let 
good sense reign in the deliberations 
of the self-appointed judges. If it be 
a sin to use a circumlocution instead 
of a plain term, then are all men sin- 
ners. We should be lenient towards 
those who use words to conceal 
thoughts : still more towards those 
who use words to express with re- 
straint a thought which otherwise 
might come with dismaying blunt- 
ness. For example, there are certain 
vigorous old English words which 
we rarely utter. It is not because 
they are coarse or indecent, but be- 
cause they are definite and positive. 
Such words are entirely reputable 
and more than expressive. No feel- 
ing of prejudice attaches to them 
when they occur in the Scripture les- 

-f- IOI H- 



HOTEL DE RAMBOUILLET 

son, or are met with in literature of a 
robust type like the plays of Shake- 
speare or the novels of Fielding. For 
conversational purposes they may be 
said to have disappeared. 

The reason may be in part this. 
The public classifies words for itself, 
with little heed to the classification of 
grammarians and philologists. The 
public takes many words and puts 
them in either of two categories, out- 
of-door words and drawing-room 
words. Moreover it is not always 
thought a virtue to bring out-of-door 
expressions into the drawing-room. 
It may be daring and c original,' but 
as a matter of taste it is as if an oars- 
man, to show his originality and in- 
dependence, were to go out to dine 
in the costume in which he had been 

-f- IO2-I- 



AND THE PR&CIEUSES 

rowing in his shell. People admit 
that there are ranks or orders of words, 
admit it by their practice even when 
they do not theorize about it. The 
proof lies in the fact that they inva- 
riably suppress certain words and use 
an equivalent. 

Such suppression is not in itself 
madness, but that way the madness 
of preciosity lies. If we habitually 
use a synonym which is rather worse 
than the word supplanted, if we strain 
at gnats and swallow camels, we de- 
monstrate anew that the spirit of pre- 
ciosity is still potent. Indeed the 
precieuses are not dead; male and 
female they still exist. The modern 
spirit manifests itself in a hundred 
ways. Sometimes it runs to deca- 
dent prose and verse in the effort to 
-H- 103 -i- 



HdTEL DE RAMBOUILLET 

be striking. Sometimes it prompts 
to the printing of books on paper 
which might have been made to wrap 
steaks in, and the illustration of one's 
poetic ideas by means of decorations 
rather less intelligible than an ordi- 
nary nightmare. Sometimes it finds 
its highest joy in being published in 
an edition so ' limited ' that after the 
personal friends have been supplied 
the volume is at once catalogued as 
4 scarce and out of print.' There is 
nothing reprehensible in being out of 
print ; most books are rather better so. 
But when the first edition of Poems, 
chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, published 
at Kilmarnock, became scarce and 
out of print, it was for reasons un- 
known to amateurs of preciosity. 
In these and similar matters we are 

-H- IO4-J- 



<u "^r = 

AND THE PR&CIEUSES 

taught to believe that good sense and 
good taste prevailed at Hotel de 
Rambouillet. The testimony of 
Chapelain, already quoted, is conclu- 
sive. Other and quite as good testi- 
mony is not wanting. In the outer 
circles of preciosity, however, it was 
quite otherwise. A thoroughgoing 
precieuse, to whom words were rather 
more important than ideas, would not 
speak of her ears ; she would say the 
gates of my understanding ; she would 
speak of night as the mother of silence, 
war as the mother of discord ; a hat 
was not a hat, it was the defier of the 
weather (1'affronteur des temps) ; chairs 
were the indis fens able s of conversation; 
and tears were the pearls of Iris : no 
one shed tears, he shed pearls. Teeth 
were the furniture of the mouth ; a ser- 
-j- 105 -H- 



HOTEL DE RAMBOUILLET 

geant of police was the bad angel of 
criminals; a mirror was known as a 
painter of supreme fidelity ; and soup 
masqueraded under the phrase, the 
harmony of two elements. 

These and similar expressions to the 
number of several hundred were col- 
lected by Somaize from the lips of 
people who used them, or from the 
letters and romances of the time, and 
are to be found in his Grand Diction- 
naire des Pretieuses. A scientific clas- 
sification of them is given in the 
fourth volume of the Histoire de la 
Langue et de la Literature fran^aise^ 
now publishing under the editorial 
direction of that distinguished scholar, 
M. Petit de Julleville. The malady 
was widespread. Moliere himself was 
not wholly able to escape it. Nei- 
-i- 106-1- 



AND THE PRfiCIEUSES 

ther was Corneille. In much the 
same way Shakespeare dropped into 
occasional Euphuistic forms even 
when he was not laughing at Eu- 
phuism. 

When preciosity reached the coun- 
try towns it became more ridiculous 
than ever, and fell quite naturally 
under the lash of the satirist. Mo- 
liere is believed to have tried the ef- 
fect of the Precieuses ridicules in the 
provinces before he produced it in 
Paris. There were so many pre- 
cieuses in Lyons that Somaize de- 
voted twenty-eight pages to them in 
an appendix to the ~Dictionnaire. 
They were to be found at Bordeaux, 
at Aix, at Poitiers, at Aries, and at 
Montpellier. In the Voyage de Cha- 
pelle et de Bachaumont is an account 
-H 107 -i- 



HOTEL DE RAMEOUILLET 

of a visit to a gathering of country 
precieuses, the very type which Mo- 
liere must often have encountered 
during his years of provincial travel. 
Chapelle describes their affected and 
pretentious airs. He satirizes their 
tawdry rhetoric, and turns them into 
ridicule by making them talk of the 
' divine beauty ' of Mademoiselle de 
Scudery, and speak of Pellisson as an 
Adonis. When one of these ladies 
referred to D'Assoucy as a member 
of the French Academy, Chapelle de- 
clares that he and his companions 
were seized with so irresistible a desire 
to laugh that they were obliged to 
leave the room and leave the house ; 
they went back to their inn to have 
their laugh out at leisure. 

There was abundant material for 
-i- 108-1- 



AND THE PR&CIEUSES 

satire in the externals of preciosity, 
as may be learned by reading Livet's 
account of a ' morning ' at the house 
of some representative blue-stock- 
ing. These people lived comic opera 
and did n't know it. One would 
like to have seen such a gathering, 
the high-priestess throned upon her 
couch, the spaces on either side of 
the bed (the ruelles) filled with ladies 
and gallants, the fluttering of fans and 
feathers, the rustle and gleam of satin 
and silk, the little beribboned canes 
which they waved incessantly while 
they talked; the talk itself, infinitely 
clever in some cases and infinitely 
absurd in others ; the flourishes and 
bows, the compliments and witti- 
cisms ; and then the general serenity 
which filled every breast, the con- 
H- 109-1- 



HOTEL DE RAMEOUILLET 

sciousness that no vulgar sound could 
mar the turn of a verse or the climax 
of an apostrophe, for the door-knocker 
was carefully muffled. 



IIO+- 



VI 

TP 

JuHE Marquise de Rambouillet 
died in 1665. For some time before 
her death the salon had been but a 
shadow of its former self. The mem- 
ory of the great days survived, but 
the great days were no longer pos- 
sible. New ideas had begun to 
mould the literature of the seven- 
teenth century. Preciosity was not 
annihilated by Moliere's attack, but 
more than ever it became a reproach 
and a byword. The latter-day pre- 



HOTEL DE RAMEOUILLET 

cieuses had the name but not the 
power. They might summon spirits 
from the vasty deep, but the only 
response was the irreverent laughter of 
spectators. 

That preciosity had many virtues 
cannot be denied. It was exceeding 
picturesque also; and picturesque- 
ness alone is a virtue for which we 
ought to be grateful. The pages 
which contain its history are among 
the most fascinating in the annals of 
French literature. The Marquise 
was in many ways a great woman. 
She was admirable in her own day, 
she is admirable in ours. It was no 
small accomplishment to have had 
a refining influence upon one's day 
and generation. It was no little or 
unworthy thing to have retained 

-H- II2H- 



AND THE PRfiCIEUSES 

one's social supremacy through so 
many years, and by entirely legiti- 
mate methods. Historians have ex- 
aggerated the intellectual frivolity of 
Hotel de Rambouillet. After all it 
seems less culpable to be frivolous 
over words and ideas than over cards; 
and if it is a question of ultimate 
idiocy, charades are no worse than 
dancing. Let us not exaggerate the 
significance of trifles. Incredible as 
it may appear, I have seen human 
beings playing hjalma ; the men were 
college-graduates and the women 
belonged to clubs. If, then, we are 
inclined to laugh at a society which 
could divide into two hostile camps 
on the question which of two sonnets 
was the better, we may take comfort 
in the compensating thought that 

7 



HdTEL DE RAMBOUILLET 

these people actually knew a sonnet 
when they saw one. 

The statement may be hard to 
prove, but without doubt the circle 
of Hotel de Rambouillet better de- 
serves our respect than the best so- 
ciety of any favorite centre at the 
present day. It was the misfortune 
of Hotel de Rambouillet to have out- 
lived its usefulness. But that may 
happen to any man, any woman, any 
organization. It was also its misfor- 
tune to have been imitated, and badly 
imitated. Yet the genuine is none 
the less genuine because the spurious 
exists. ' Hotel de Rambouillet has its 
place, and that a great place in the 
history of the seventeenth century. 
It was the incomparable vestibule of 
modern culture. The men of that 
-H- 114-1- 



AND THE PR&CIEUSES 

generation had no reason to regret 
that they had frequented the "blue 
room " of Arthenice. Some no doubt 
learned affectation, but more learned 
to think delicately, and all to speak 
well/ 



115. 



BIBLIOGRAPHICAL 
NOTE 



1HIS sketch of Hotel de Rambouillet 
will serve no real purpose unless it stimu- 
lates the reader to consult a few, at least, 
of the many books and essays in which 
French critical scholarship and genius have 
interpreted the history of seventeenth cen- 
tury literature. Larroumet well says that 
one might make a small library out of the 
books devoted to the societe precieuse. 
The following bibliography is for the use 
of c gentle ' readers ; it is not addressed to 
-j- 117 -i- 



BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE 

literary specialists or professional bibliogra- 
phers. 

Having in mind, therefore, the amateur 
of good books rather than the pundit, I 
have grouped the materials relating to 
Hotel de Rambouillet and the Precieuses 
thus : 

FIRST : The more or less condensed no- 
tices to be found in manuals of French 
literature. These works are inexpensive 
and accessible. They present the subject 
in epitome. 

1 . Lanson (Gustave), Histoire de la Lit- 
t'erature fran$aise. Paris, Hachette, 1898, 

PP- S 68 -^ 1 - 

2. Lintilhac (Eugene), Litterature fran- 
fatse. Paris, Andre fils, 1895. Deuxieme 
partie, pp. 916. 

3. Brunettere (Ferdinand), Manuel de 
Fhistoire de la Litter atur e fran$aise. Paris, 
Delagrave, 1898, pp. 106-130. 



BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE 

Each of the above-named books is rich 
in bibliographical references. 

4. Geruzez (Eugene), Histoire de la Lit- 
ter ature fran^aise. Paris, Didier, 1869, pp. 
35-63. 

5. Albert (Paul), Literature fran^aise 
des origines a la fin du XVI e Siecle. Paris, 
Hachette, 1881, pp. 387-404. 

6. Pergameni (Hermann), Histoire ge- 
nerate de la Litterature fran$aise. Paris, 
Alcan, 1889, PP- 209213. 

SECOND : Extended accounts and mono- 
graphs. 

i. Petit de Julleville (L.), Histoire de 
la Langue et de la Litterature fran$aise. 
Paris, Colin, 1897. Vol. IV., chapters i, 
2, and 7. 

This magnificent work is being written 
by collaboration. The chapters in ques- 
tion are by Petit de Julleville, Bourciez, 



BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE 

and Morillot. Excellent bibliographies at 
the end of each chapter. 

2. Demogeot (Jacques), Tableau de la 
Litter ature fran^aise au XVII e Siecle avant 
Corneilie et Descartes. Paris, Hachette, 
1859, PP- 205-300. 

3. Livet (Ch.-L.), Precieux et Precieuses, 
caracieres et mceitrs Utter air es du XVII e 
Siecle. Paris, Didier, 1859. 

4. Rcederer (P. L.), Memoir e pour servir 
a rhistoire de la Societe polie en France. 
Paris, Didot, 1835. 

Privately printed and expensive. Mod- 
est Parisian booksellers will sometimes part 
with the volume for ten dollars. There is 
a copy in the Boston Public Library. 

5. Cousin (Victor), La Societe fran$aise 
au XVII e Siecle d'apres la Grand Cyrus. 
Paris, Perrin, 1886, two vols. La Jeu- 
nesse de Mme. de Longueville. Paris, Perrin, 
1897. Mme. de Sable, Paris, Didier, 1882. 

-i- 1 20 -i- 



BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE 

6. Brunetiere (F.), Etudes Critiques^ 
deuxieme serie : La Societe precieuse^ a 
review of La Jeunesse de Flechier by the 
Abbe Fabre. 

In this essay Brunetiere makes his often 
quoted distinction between the esprit gau- 
lois and the esprit precieux. 

7. Larroumet (Gustave), Notice histo- 
rique sur les Precieuses ridicules. Paris, Gar- 
nier. 

This book should be in the hands of all 
students. The eighty pages of introduction 
are in the highest degree suggestive and 
informing. 

8. Crane (Thomas Frederick), La Soci- 
ete fran$aise au XVII* Siecle. New York, 
Putnam, 1889. 

Contains a large and carefully selected 
group of passages relating to Hotel de 
Rambouillet, nearly all from contemporary 
writers. There are copious notes, an intro- 

-H- 121 -I- 



BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE 

duction of thirty-four pages, a bibliography, 
and a reproduction of the c Carte du 
Tendre.' 

9. Breitinger (H.), Aus neuern Littera- 
turen. Zurich, 1879, pp. 154. Der 
Salon Rambouillet und seine culturgeschicht- 
licbe Bedeutung. 

10. Colombey (fimile), Ruelles^ Salons^ 
et Cabarets. Paris, Dentu, 1892. 

This list does not begin to exhaust the 
number of critical and historical studies. 
The reader who consults these will have 
no difficulty in getting track of what he 
wants. The numerous passages scattered 
through the various writings of Sainte- 
Beuve should be read. 

THIRD : Direct sources, among which 
are : 

i. Tallemant de R6aux : Les Histori- 
ettes, 3 e edition, De Monmerque et Paulin 
Paris. Paris, Techener, 1862, six vols. 



BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE 

2. Voiture (Vincent), Les (Euvres de 
Monsieur de Voiture, 7 edition. Paris, 
Thomas Jolly, 1665. 

A modern edition by A. Roux, Paris, 
1856. 

3. Somaize (Baudeau de), Le Grand 
Dictionnaire des Pretieuses, edited by Li vet. 
Paris, Jannet, 1856, 2 vols., Bibliotheque 
elzevirienne. 

4. Balzac : Les (Euvres de Monsieur de 
Balzac. Paris, Thomas Jolly, 1665, 2 
vols., folio. 

A modern edition by Moreau, Paris, 
1854. 

5. Scudfcry (Madeleine de), Artamene ou 
le Grand Cyrus. Paris, Courbe, 164953. 

Other direct sources are the works of 
Godeau, Sarrazin, Benserade, Chapelain's 
letters, De Pure's La Pr'etieuse, ou le my stir e 
de la Ruelle, Bary's L'homme de cour and 
Rh'etorique fran^aise. 

-"1 23+- 



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